Thursday, February 12, 2009

Measure Twice, Cut Once

I've been installing drawer pulls this morning. The single knobs are easy, especially since I found this neat little plastic template that lets you place them uniformly on every door and drawer. The larger pulls, the ones that require two screws, are a different story. I used cardboard to make a template, marked the location of the holes, then drilled to make the openings. Unfortunately, I was just a tiny bit off in my measurements, so the second screw didn't quite fit into the hole in the drawer pull. Ever try to stretch a piece of metal? Won't work. Instead, I had to enlarge the hole I'd drilled so I could make the screw fit. I'd forgotten something I learned from my grandfather (a carpenter) and my father (a man who could do anything with tools). "Measure twice, cut once."

How many times in life do we forget that axiom? Not just when doing a project around the house, but in everything we do. Take communication. When writing a letter required taking paper and pen and writing out our thoughts longhand, we might have been a bit slow to send one. The typewriter and word processor made things even easier. Now, we just snap off an email. Unfortunately, it would often be better for us to think over what we're saying--to "measure twice" as it were--before hitting the "send" button.

As a writer, I learned from one of my mentors to "Get it down, then get it right. You can correct it in the second draft." And, with very rare exceptions, all authors do a second draft...and a third...and so on. Then the work goes to the agent, then to an editor (often several editors) before it is ever printed. This is another example of "measure twice." I've recently gone back and read the first draft of the very first novel I wrote. I had very little understandings of the basics of fiction writing. In this case, I needed to measure a lot of times before I was ever ready to cut.

I'll make an effort today to think about my words and actions before going forward with them. And, on what would have been his ninety-fifth birthday, I'll recall the lesson learned from my father: "Measure twice, cut once."


One More Writer said...

I've heard that saying before, but I like the way you've applied it here--not just with writing, but in life. I need to do that! Measuring once has proved far too costly lately!

Anonymous said...

NICE! I've never head that saying before.

Great post. So true.